Quebec City: Are We Still in North America?

For the 4th of July Holiday weekend, we did what every sensible American family would do.  We left the country.  As I noted last month, Quebec City has been at the top of our list of places to return ever since we knew we were moving Northeast, and this was our first opportunity to make that a reality.

We fell victim to the charms of Quebec City on our first visit six years ago when we came upon a place that we weren’t quite expecting.

In preparation for our trip to Montreal in the summer of 2011, we read that Quebec City was a pretty and somewhat exotic side trip.  Without giving it too much thought, we apportioned one night of our trip to make the three hour drive down the river with only modest expectations.

Quebec City Lower Town

What we found was a beautiful walled city, impressively sited on a big rock overlooking the river, with quaint streets and the French language ringing in the air (admittedly, we fully expected this).  It was more charming than we had imagined, and in the space of a day, what started as a diversion became one of our favorite spots in North America.

The irony of that statement is that as soon as we walked through the Porte St. Jean and into the old city, we felt like we had left the continent entirely.  City walls?  In Canada?  The massive Chateau Frontenac that looms so photogenically over the upper town brings to mind the great castles of Europe, and the postcard-perfect Place Royale in the lower town would be out of place in any other North American city.

Quebec City Place Royale Church

Jessica and I had been to France for the first time a couple years before that trip, and for a day, it almost felt like we had been transported back.  Almost.  The “old" buildings are a few centuries newer, Toyotas still dramatically outnumber Renaults, and you’ll see more poutine than pate.  It’s not quite France…but it’s the closest you’ll get this side of the Atlantic.

Take a look at the pairs of pictures below and you could easily confuse scenes "New World" scenes of Quebec with "Old World" pictures of France.

Lyon Square
Quebec City Rooflines
Lyon Apartment Block
Quebec City Auberge du Tresor
Annecy Riverfront
Quebec City Place Royale

For the record, images of Quebec can be seen on the right with France on the left.

As Americans, Quebec City gives us the rare pleasure of getting in our cars, driving for a while, and experiencing a culture that feels radically different.  It's only about 8 hours from NYC by car, but it culturally, it feels much further removed.  Language, food, architecture, you name it.  In almost every way, it’s more Bordeaux than Buffalo.

It was fun to be back.

Bonjour.  Bienvenue a Quebec City!

Coming soon:  A few more posts about some of our favorite spots in Quebec City.